For the Love of Old Things

Have you ever recognized the insane number of little thoughts that flit through your head each day? The opinions you form, the emotions you feel, the jokes you tell yourself? Sometimes my mind is like a pinball machine, bouncing from subject to subject (or, more accurately, like a person walking through the living room in the dark, bumping from piece of furniture to piece of furniture. Not that this has ever happened).

My mind makes these frantic trips around the space that is my brain and creates its own culture, its own environment, inside my head. It sounds weird to say it this way, but I think it’s true for us all. We all have roads our minds travel over and over, sometimes deepening them into ruts. We all have trains our minds ride for a while before getting off to ride the next one. Sometimes we ride one train too long or too often and we have to exit quickly and never buy another ticket…

The truth is, there are thoughts we think that no one else will ever know about, not only because it would be annoying as hell for us to tell everything we think, but also because we ourselves aren’t always aware of what the mind entertains itself with. These thoughts are lost, sloughing off with each day, never preserved, never contained. Of course, they must be in the brain somewhere, and sometimes a remembered thought hits us suddenly years down the road.

But so much of our internal lives are never remembered by the world, and that’s terrifying to me.

My best friend teases me for liking “old things,” antiques and dried flowers and doilies. One time I asked her opinion of my vintage-style home decorating, and then… I never asked her opinion again. Moronically and hilariously, it’s one of our major disagreements (along with the role of fruit in dessert).

But I will forever like “old things” because they have what we often call “character.” You go in an old house and see the scratched wood floor and say “wow, this house has character.” It’s a way of recognizing that this place, this thing, has seen life. It’s been around for years of thoughts and conversations and emotions.

I think that’s why I love my old things so much: they are a way to grab hold of those million fleeting thoughts that bump around in our brains day after day. Someday we will be gone, and our thoughts with us, and all that’s left will be the coffee tables we stubbed our toes on and the picture frames we dusted and the dishes we ate off of. For a brief moment, each dusty thing in an antique store was once audience to the thoughts and feelings that no one else will ever know or remember. And now they are all that’s left.

Does this sound nihilistic? I don’t mean to be nihilistic. I’m just trying to defend my love of old things.

I also think this is what gives me even more conviction to be a good writer. The great moments in history, the wars and celebration and speeches, will always be remembered. But it’s the little things, the jokes around the dinner table, the shade of blue the sky was on a certain day, or the smell of your grandmother’s perfume when you hugged her, that won’t be.

That’s a shame, because all those little details are what life is. And that is even more noble and real than the great moments could ever hope to be. But out of sight, out of mind. We don’t realize how good our days are until they’ve passed and become the good old days.

This is why I’ll always love my old things and try to remember each stupid detail of each humdrum phase of life. This is why I have a shelf full of journals and random scraps of thoughts written on paper and phrases typed into my phone on the go so I don’t forget them. Because these little stories are life, and these little stories are what we end up caring about.

These little stories are what writers are here to tell.

Everything is Beautiful

With the arrival of March, we enter “Still Winter”, a season known to the rest of the world as “Spring”, and one of the most depressing parts of the year in Western PA. The weather is a yo-yo. You can literally wear shorts one day and a parka the next (this week was like that).

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I used to hate this time of year. Every warm day made me incredibly giddy, but with every temperature drop my hopes were dashed. More than once I’ve trekked through snow on the way to church Easter morning, snow boots paired with a floral dress.

Last year I focused on just getting through winter to better days, and this year I tried to love it while it was here. And I’ve realized after everything that I actually absolutely love Still Winter.

There’s something about the the trees so bare and the grass and brush so many different shades of brown, all waiting for something to happen, that gives you this sense of incredible hope. The tops of the trees are thick with tiny buds, which will burst out in a week if we have a good stretch of warm days. And time seems thinner; I feel the accumulated hope of many years and generations all coming together with the spring.

Everywhere I look I see something beautiful. It’s usually very mundane things, like a house or a bush or a rock and some snow. But I can’t help it. My eyes get pulled in and I can’t stop staring and feasting on the beauty. There are things I think are so beautiful and I can’t explain why.

This weekend starts Spring Break. While Alex will be spending it in sunny South Carolina with his sports team, I will be in sunny Oil City, PA. It’ll be nice to catch up with family and friends, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (I lied. It’s not that sunny).

My town is a forgotten one, a place that used to be great and isn’t, and I think that sense of failure and hopelessness is unconsciously imprinted onto everyone’s mind. Facebook has a meme page for Oil City, with some referring to it as the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King. Lovely stuff.

But there is beauty there, too. There are tree-covered hills healed from decades of abuse, majestic brick buildings and painted gingerbread houses built by old millionaires. There are good people who need hope, who need to look at things and be captivated by beauty without understanding why.

So that’s what I’ll be thinking about this spring break and Still Winter. I hope I run into others who think about it too. And I think that practicing that kind of focus can do some amazing things. I’ll have to try and see.

 

 

(Not Another) Love Poem

One thing that bothers me about society is our obsession with love, and yet for as obsessed as we are with it, there is still so little of it in the world. Every book, movie, TV show, and song describes our quest for true, lifelong love, specifically romantic love. We talk about finding love and losing love, falling into it and falling out of it.

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We tend to see love as a fated thing; either we are destined to love someone or we are not, and if we are not, we have no control over whether we fall out of love. In our minds, we are at the mercy of fate. That thought is terrifying, and yet it is captivating. We can’t wait to be under the influence of a destiny so wonderful and so terrible. We give up jobs, our hearts, and other relationships in pursuit of that one, destined and fated love that will perfectly satisfy us.

Some of us spend our entire lives looking for that perfect love, and when we can’t find it, we become disillusioned and cynical of the world and the people in it. Or we do find it, or think we do, and someday we wake up to realize that this one, perfect person is a real pain in the neck sometimes. And we start to wonder if this love is true. Then we believe is isn’t, and never was, and we throw away what we had to go on to pursue that one elusive, perfect love, certain that if we could just catch the tail end of it, all of this would be worth it.

I propose a different concept. Cynical as it my sound, the truth is that we will never find perfect love in another human being, because human beings are not perfect. Sometimes love does seem to be destined; I’m not sure how that all works, but I do know that meeting someone you love is only part of the equation. It takes work, lots of really hard work, to keep love strong. We are not at the mercy of love or at the mercy of fate. Circumstances may bring us together or pull us apart, but it is our responsibility, if we choose to love someone, to keep loving them, even if they do end up being a pain in the neck.

Sometimes there are exceptions. Sometimes the person we love ends up being just a really bad person. But I’d venture to say that more often than not we throw at promising relationship away because we have a wrong perception of what love is. We think conflict and imperfections and a departure from all our hopes and dreams shows weakness in the relationship, when sometimes they are just obstacles that need to be loved through and that will make the love stronger when they are overcome.

So that’s my two cents. I’ve outlined them in two convenient stanzas, poetically. And they are much more succinct than the above ramblings, but it’s something to chew on :o). Enjoy.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV).
 

(Not Another) Love Poem

 

Disbelief, luck, and blessing,

grins and sparkling eyes.

Jellied knees and pounding hearts,

so this is love.

 

Stubbornness, pride, and crying,

prayers and giving grace.

Humble words and knitted souls,

So this is love.

 

Soliloquy

Happy Tuesday everyone!

I wanted to share the third poem I presented last Wednesday. It’s quite different and really weird, but a lot of fun.

From talking with my brother and boyfriend, I got the idea to write a poem in which the speaker is a little “off their rocker”. I don’t want to say too much in the way of explanation, because I think that most of the fun of a poem is trying to figure out and interpret the events that are happening. So here is my poem “Soliloquy” (which, by the way, is a fantastic word). Enjoy!

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Soliloquy

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

The walls are slimy.

(Yankee doodle went to town)

I was on the boat with Tom and then that wave came.

There was a flash, a crash, and a bang.

(Are you going to Scarborough faire?)

I’m thirsty.

And it’s dark, and my head hurts.

(I hate rats.)

This floor is hard.

And I am here, and Tom is gone.

(Poor Tom.)

I wonder if he’s here too, in a different room.

They wouldn’t put us in the same room.

That’s too dangerous. We might escape.

(Third time this week!)

Wait! Who’s they?

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

I can hear chains cling-a-ling … ing

(Riding on a pony)

I was on that boat with Jim and then the wave came.

No, sorry, not Jim. Tom.

(Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme)

The wave was really blue.

Now it’s dark, and cold, and smells like mold.

(I hate rats.)

Ha! a rhyme!

I should be a poet. If I get out of here.

(Poor Jim.)

I mean Tom. I wonder if he’s here too.

But they put us in different rooms.

Because we are masters of escape.

(Third time this week!)

Wait! Who’s they?

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

I haven’t eaten but I’m not hungry.

(Stuck a feather in his hat)

I was on the boat with Tom – yes, definitely Tom – and then that wave came

and I think we’ve been kidnapped.

(Remember me to one who lives there)

That wave hit our boat really hard.

It’s dark – but no, that’s just my blindfold.

(I hate rats.)

And my arms won’t move and where is Tom?

I hear rats in the hall.

(Poor Tom.)

He had a good singing voice.

Knew all the classics.

I bet they are listening to him sing now.

(Third time this week!)

Wait! Who’s they?

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

There are no windows and no air.

(And called it macaroni)

Tom was a rat. He was driving the boat. And then that wave came.

Darn it Tom, you can’t even sail a boat,

(She once was a true love of mine)

You made us crash right into another one!

I’ve gotten my blindfold off and it’s really bright in here.

(I hate rats.)

But still cold and moldy.

I’d be a horrible poet.

(Poor Tom)

No, not poor Tom! Tom ratted me out!

I hear voices. They are coming.

Footsteps down the hall, jingling at my door.

(Third time this week!)

Wait! Who’s they?

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

They wear white coats and masks.

(Yankee doodle went to town.)

One of them has Tom’s eyes, squinting like they were when the wave came.

The wave of men.

(Are you going to scarborough fair?)

They’re talking to me but I can’t hear.

Blue men on the blue boat.

(I hate rats.)

They’re asking me deep questions about my childhood.

Blue like Tom’s eyes.

(Poor Tom.)

Why did that man steal his eyes?

They all shake their heads.

A needle! They have a needle!

(Third time this week!)

Wait! Who’s they?

 

What do you think? This is by far one of the most unusual things I’ve ever written, (and I was a tiny bit anxious to present it in public!) but everyone I showed it to has both really liked it and been really confused by it, :o) but the consensus has been a pleasant confusion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Hannah

(Photography and poetry by Hannah Allman.)